On a hot August morning twenty-seven years ago, my husband Trent took me to the emergency room with severe abdominal pains. The pain had started shortly after breakfast. As the minutes passed, the pains only intensified.
I lay in ER, writhing in pain, while the doctors discussed my case. They weren’t sure what was wrong, but they thought I would probably need surgery. When they heard that six months earlier I had had a bleeding disorder and almost died at the same hospital, they decided to send me three hours across the state to University of Michigan Hospitals. Six months earlier, U of M had treated me for the bleeding disorder. They could treat me again if need be.
“Can Trent ride with me?” I begged as I was loaded into the ambulance.
The EMTs agreed, although he would ride in front. But simply having Trent in the same vehicle brought comfort. I didn’t want to travel alone as I had six months earlier when I was flown to U of M by helicopter.
Recently I’ve been memorizing a passage in John 6 where Jesus declares He is the Bread of Life. A group of Jews (who had eaten from the miracle of the loaves and fishes, but wanted more free food) reminded Jesus that Moses had given their ancestors manna in the wilderness. Jesus corrected them. Moses did not give the manna. God did.
Last night I thought about the estimated over two million Jews traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land. They had all the food they could eat (manna), their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out, and they stayed healthy if they obeyed God.
But they did feel need. Sometimes they were thirsty. Water was probably always on their minds. I imagine they grew weary with folding up their houses, walking to the next place, and setting up again. Perhaps they grew weary of the wilderness. For sure they became tired of the manna. And did the Israelites wonder, “Why?” What was the purpose for the wilderness wanderings? Were their lives being wasted out there?
Water. Weariness. Why? Immediate needs. The constant struggle of life. The big picture.
We think about the same things. Usually there’s some immediate concern upmost in my mind—health, what I need to prepare for the next meal, relationship conflicts. Then the constant routine of life can drain our energy, our imaginations if we don’t regularly recharge our hearts. And then the big picture. Why am I here? Not just in general terms, but how best can God use me today?
The traveling Israelites didn’t have it easy. What do you think encouraged them? Hopefully it was God’s presence. In fact, God didn’t just say He was present, He used visible objects to display His presence. Exodus 13:21 explains, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” ESV
God is with us too. As we deal with everyday difficulties, as we get weary of the long haul, when we pose the “Why?” questions. We have many assurances of His presence from His Word such as Hebrews 13:5: “ . . . be content with what you have, for he [God] has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ESV
God’s presence was a comfort to me when I was in that hospital all those years ago with the abdominal pain. The pain eased off later that day, I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, and had to undergo treatment (not eating for 10 days, then removal of my gall bladder). But after a couple of days, Trent went back home to work and be with our young boys. I was left alone, far from home. Yet, I wasn’t alone. God’s presence comforted me.
When has God’s presence been a comfort to you?